Assessment is a fundamental part of education, and one of the most complex aspects as well. There are several ways of conducting an assessment, and I have found ways in which I feel strongly about. Throughout my practicums in first year and second, and through my other teaching experiences, I have been able to not only see assessments being done by Associate Teachers and Professors, but have conducted them myself. These experiences allowed me to establish an ideology on assessments.
Creating a diagnostic before teaching a lesson is crucial. This allows teachers to see what their students already know, and do not know, on a particular subject. Diagnostics also allow for teachers to decide where their students are currently at in their learning; essentially, diagnostics are an Assessment For Learning (AfL), which plays a critical part in education. Creating a mind map as a diagnostic allows students to be creative in their understanding, and visualize their knowledge on a subject. Mind maps also allow for students to continuously add ideas and points throughout their learning. They can link concepts together, and create relationships between ideas. In addition to linking concepts, students are able to better organize themselves, which in turn, helps them retain the concepts better as well as enhancing their thinking abilities. Mind maps resemble the way a brain categorizes material, therefore using one in the classroom will aid in students remembering and learning the material. The way a mind map looks is, for the most part, up to the students. Colour coding, adding images- these are all additional tools students can use to create their connections.
One type of diagnostic that I have continuously used is the KWL, (what students know, what they want to know, and what they learned) which can be used as an assessment for learning. This diagnostic type is something that I use throughout the entire lesson- not only at the beginning. During my second year of practicum, I was teaching a lesson on structures. I created an anchor chart, and my first question for the students was what they think they know about structures. I included almost all answers given by the students, which helped me create further lessons. In addition, asking students what they think they know on a certain subjects allows for the teacher to assess them and see at which point students are at in their understanding. Next, I asked them what they wanted to know, and many of their responses were topics that would be covered. If not, I would make sure to integrate some of the answers to their questions. At the end of the lesson, I would either add to the anchor chart, or use an exit card and ask the students what they had learned. This allows me to see the progression of their learning, and what I as a teacher need to continue to work on, and how I can move forward.
Once the diagnostic is complete, we move on to the task at hand. Collaboration is another part of assessment that I feel is essential. One example that I use often is think-pair-share. Students are encouraged to think of their own answers to a given question, and then turn to their partner to discuss their thinking. Finally, the answers are then discussed with the larger class. In large groups, individual thinking can get lost amongst the crowd. However, in a pair, as a teacher you are more inclined to getting answers that are from both students. This allows the teacher to assess the answers on a given subject, and understand at what stage in the learning process the students are at. Think-Pair-Share is an excellent source for Assessment As Learning. The students are in charge of their own learning in this situation.
One, simple method of assessment that I feel is overlooked, is observation. During group work, or even independent work, it is important to circulate the classroom, and make note of conversations, ideas, comments, and the work being done independently. Students are given a set of instructions, and through observation, we can see how well they are followed; what parts of the instruction are met, and which ones do the students need help with. It is also beneficial to observe other classrooms as well. Teaching is a career that strongly benefits from collaboration. By observing another classroom, other teachers have the opportunity to see what works, and implement some of the strategies into their classroom (just as other teachers may observe your classroom as well).
I strongly believe in the importance of feedback. Students are so quick to look at their marks on projects or tests, and not look at the feedback given which includes important ways for the student to improve, as well as talk about what they did well. Due to this belief, I feel that when students are completing an important project, there should be a form of feedback given throughout the project- not only at the end. This gives students the time to see what they are doing well, and ways in which they can improve before handing in the final product. One form of this is through the use of Google Docs/Google Slides. If students are creating something through these applications, teachers can write feedback directly on their project in the comments section. As they continue to work on their project, they are able to incorporate the feedback given into their work, and reflect upon it.
The final product is the summative assessment (Assessment Of Learning), however I feel that in order to get there, the students need guidance and feedback throughout their journey. The end result is an accumulation of all the knowledge the students have gathered over a period of time. It is unfair to give students one set of instructions, a criterion, and evaluate them based on a one-time effort; this is not necessarily the way things work in reality. Consequently, I feel that giving students feedback throughout the process will allow them to create a final product to the best of their ability.
At the end of a task, it is important to get a grasp on what your students have learned. I have used many different types of exit cards as an assessment as learning strategy. They allow for me to see what the students understand right after a lesson; they also allow for me to see what aspects of the lesson my students do not understand, and how I can plan accordingly. My exit cards are very simple in that they are just a few questions. I often include a question on one thing they learned, create a diagram or a picture, and finally, if there was group work involved, a question regarding how they felt they worked with their group. I believe that in addition to the curriculum, it is important to work on classroom community, and group work is a major part of that. Exit cards allow for students to discuss what they learned while the information is fresh in their minds, although I also feel that it is important to start the next lesson (on a separate day) with asking the students what they previously learned. This allows me to see what part of my lesson was memorable to students, and what was not. Secondly, it allows me to see if there are important parts of the lesson that the students did not remember, or did not understand. I can begin the new lesson with these aspects.
When creating a final product, students need criteria to follow. Rubrics are an important part of assessment, and tell students exactly what they need to incorporate into their final project/assignment. Since I feel that feedback is significant to assessment, using the single point rubric complements this belief. Single point rubrics include the criteria needed to achieve the standard for that given assignment. On the left hand column includes feedback on which criteria the student did not meet, and on the right hand column includes feedback on which criteria exceeded the standard. Using the single-point rubric gives student more opportunity to focus on feedback, rather than solely on grades, since the students are only technically seeing criteria for one level grade (level 3).
There any many different ways to assess students, and not just one way is correct. I strongly feel that teachers should try out different types of assessments in their classroom to see what works for their students at a specific time. All students learn in different ways, therefore they should be assessed in different ways to compliment their learning. My ideology on assessment is one that I know will change over time, especially when in charge of my own classroom. Assessment practice is one that will be changed and rearranged time and time again, however, it is important to begin to find methods in which you feel suit you as a teacher; this is what I have begun to do.